Southern Poverty Law Center Event Tackles Hate, Extremism in US

Lecia Brooks
Lecia Brooks speaks in Goodell Hall on hate and extremism in the U.S.

Southern Poverty Law Center’s Lecia Brooks spoke to a crowd of nearly 100 on the state of hate and extremism in the U.S. during the featured lecture for the Hate Has No Home at UMass campaign on Oct. 2.

Brooks, who led the talk in the Bernie Dallas Room in Goodell Hall, offered a detailed assessment of the recent rise in hate groups. She discussed where and how these hate groups emerge and also provided guidance for effectively challenging bigotry and hate speech. 

“People often ask us, ‘why is there an increase in hate?’” said Brooks. “The primary driver is shifting demographics.”

As the U.S. moves away from having a majority white population, the number of hate groups and incidents have risen, Brooks said. The internet has also contributed, allowing these groups to share their information, which she said can influence and radicalize others.

Following the results of the 2016 presidential election, Brooks said there was a “tremendous spike” in the number of hate and bias-related incidents. These incidents have happened most frequently in public spaces, the workplace and in schools, including K-12 and higher education institutions. Though these incidents seem to have slowed in K-12 schools, Brooks said they have remained an issue on college campuses.

Brooks called the Hate Has No Home at UMass campaign, which reaffirms the university’s core values and its commitment to ensuring a safe and welcoming living and learning environment for every member of the campus community, “something you can be really proud of.”

“It’s more than just a slogan — ‘no hate at UMass’ — you have to make it so,” she said. She encouraged the audience to pay attention to what’s going on in the country and to challenge bigotry in their lives.  

To help with that, Brooks pointed to the center’s Speak Up! guide. The resource, which was made available at the event and can be found online at www.umass.edu/diversity, offers specific ways to respond to bias and bigotry. Ultimately, she said, the fight to combat bigotry continues.

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” Brooks said, “We can’t be satisfied ‘until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’ for each and every one of us.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center is the leading nonprofit U.S. organization monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists. There, Brooks leads outreach efforts on key initiatives and social justice issues and she frequently gives presentations around the country to promote tolerance and diversity.